Lauren Dreyer, a senior associate in our Washington, D.C. office, discusses her experience working with the Legal Aid Society:
How did you first become involved with the Legal Aid Society? / Are you involved with a pro bono case currently?
I was looking for opportunities for different types of pro bono work. I had previously worked on criminal defense and veterans disability benefits cases. I’m a patent litigator by day, so I wanted to pick up a case that would allow me more time in the courtroom. I first became involved with the Legal Aid Society when our pro bono coordinator, Mark Miller, connected me with them to take on one of their landlord-tenant cases this year.
Tell us more about the case you are working on:
I am currently representing a single, working mother of 5 children who live with her on subsidized housing. She has lived at the same property for the past three years. Before Covid-19, the client was employed full-time at a restaurant. The landlord has failed to make basic repairs almost since the beginning of the tenancy, including failure to abate a rat infestation. The client defaulted on her rent payment by one month. Despite a three-year history of accepting partial payments for rent, the landlord refused to accept partial payment and brought a lawsuit against her for non-payment of rent. As a result, I assisted the client in identifying six housing violations as affirmative defenses to the landlord’s cause of action.
Although litigation is inherently unpredictable, we faced an unprecedented challenge during this case due to the onset of the public health emergency related to the Covid-19 pandemic. My client’s employer temporarily terminated her employment due to the economic fallout from Covid-19. I was able to assist her in recertifying her monthly rental payment to $0 due to her loss of income.
What about the organization or mission do you think more people should know?
I am really impressed with Legal Aid Society. They provide a ton of helpful materials for pro bono attorneys and, most importantly, a mentor for each case. My mentor has given me great advice along the way, everything from strategies for success, to navigating court procedures in light of Covid-19, to providing thoughts on draft discovery requests. It has been truly invaluable to have a colleague with whom I can collaborate on the issues in the case and who has such extensive knowledge and experience in these types of disputes. Despite having no experience with landlord-tenant law, I felt well-prepared for my first hearing, thanks to the Legal Aid Society’s resources.
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